Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Monday, 24 October 2016

Apple Day

A relatively modern celebration, Apple Day, was first celebrated in 1990 in Covent Garden. Now it is celebrated every year throughout the country on the weekend closest to the 30th of October.

Characters from much older traditions are commonly found joining in this more modern festival. The GreenMan was spotted at Apple Day festivities yesterday at the Borough Market.  Over the next few days I'll introduce you to a few of the others I spotted celebrating the occasion.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Ted goes mountaineering


… climbing a Gay Mountain no less … I feared it was a bit of a “rum idea” at first and then some facts were distilled into my brain and I realised that I could be open to new adventures in the open air of the great outdoors … Well that’s a pretty cryptic opening Ted so what on earth are you talking about (yet again).

Ok ok ok … the other night I went to a rum tasting behind the almost circus like curtains that hide the place of magic tasting discoveries at my favourite libations store, Laithwaites in Borough Market (trust me you need to go to anything they have on!!!).

I perched on a stool around a barrel with 3 glasses containing an attractive amber liquid on a tasting sheet. I noticed that the glasses had glass covers on top – a bit like the lenses in Harry Potter’s glasses. 

Clearly they served a specific purpose, designed to enhance our enjoyment by keeping the aroma locked in the glass until we were to taste it ... well worth the effort despite the odd glass frisbee incident caused by the over enthusiastic taster when we were asked to “twirl” the glass to release the aromas.

Enter the Master Distiller of Mount Gay Rum (MG) – Alan Smith. Set up in Barbados in 1703 MG are the oldest distiller in the world to still be on their original site and they still distil in the open air. Alan did his biochemistry degree in the UK and when the grey weather drove him home to Barbados he got an entry level job in Mount Gay in their lab in 1991 ... so this is where their latest chapter started in essence as the Master Brewer is "all" .

The secret to MG’s relatively small “craft” production of rum starts with the water. Coral limestone is a wonderful filter and then you add the bedrock of rum - molasses - from sugar cane - and start the boiling of ingredients which introduces the 4 pillars of MG, vanilla, almonds, bananas, and mocha (coffee and chocolate).  Part of MG’s “secret recipe” is to use two types of distillation methods, column and pot stills, for different flavours and alcohol levels in their resulting distillates … then they age them in charred Bourbon barrels ready for blending.

The Master Blender is the one who creates the consistent product, challenged by the differences in the seasons and their impact on the ingredients and the evaporation experienced in the barrels. Alan told us some very interesting stuff while he led us through tasting his exquisite XO (extra old) and 1703 (extra extra old) blends … for example the average annual ambient temperature in Barbados is 20 degrees, whereas in Scotland it is 5 degrees, so the MG 10-year-old aged rum is equivalent to a 40-year aged Scottish Whisky.  

The 1703 tasted liked a top of the line Cognac and I reckon that as rum struggles to throw off its “and coca cola” legacy there are some fabulous and delicious age worthy top quality bargains to be had in the craft rum world … start with Mount Gay … Alan knows what’s he’s doing IMHO … 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Chiling Out

It was a couple of weeks ago in case you think we are having a new burst of sunshine, however I still had a jacket on.  

Friday, 21 October 2016

Blue Reflections

A dull day presented a challenge for creating an interesting image.  Blue boats on a murky canal provided an interesting option.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

After Hours

The market late at night when all the stalls are closed and packed away for another day.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Pretty Hands

The henna stall was very popular at Diwali on the weekend.  A little trivia around the henna tattoo, when being decorated for a wedding the bride is keen to have the darkest stains possible as this means they will have a happy marriage and a better mother-in-law.   

Monday, 17 October 2016

Diwali in Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square was a bursting with colour and festivities yesterday as the first place in the world to begin the the celebrations for Diwali 2016.  The Hindu festival of light is celebrated every autumn, celebrating light over dark, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair.  Celebrations, that often last for five days, include lights shining everywhere, buildings, temples, doorways, windows.  Don new or best outfits and offer prayers to the goddess of fertility and prosperity.

Dancing, music and food were in abundance in Trafalgar Square.  Women could be helped into colourful saris and have their hands decorated with henna.  Even the sudden downpour of rain in the middle of the afternoon did not dampen the spirits of the crowd.

Happy Diwali!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Ted is misled

… and as a result things go a little bit pear shaped … ah autumn the season when nature showers us with her bounties to enjoy now and to prepare for the long winter months that quickly follow the season of the turning leaves. It’s hard to know where to start really as the array of produce that’s at its best now is almost endless … vegetables like pumpkins and squash, kohlrabi, beetroot, beans, the cabbage family, corn, mushrooms, new seasons potatoes, and of course there’s no show without punch as they say – yes folks it’s apple season!!!

The UK is justifiably proud of its apple growing heritage and has loads of different varieties that they call their own. Interestingly though quite a number of the modern commercially viable varieties of apples grown here are localised versions of new hybrids that were developed in New Zealand. This isn’t really surprising as the British took apples to New Zealand as part of their colonisation blueprint and naturally the clement Pacific maritime climate there allowed them to seriously out perform their north of the equator old world ancestral DNA.

But I digress … the Doll came home the other day and said “I’ve just seen a Papple”. After first confirming that this wasn’t a collective noun for a group of people in the same place at the same time all using Apple computers, I ventured on. A few more leading questions established that she was indeed talking about a fruit that’s in season now … Papple … umm never heard of it - so I went out, in disguise naturally, and bought some. Simple I thought, it’s got to be a cross between a Pear and an Apple right – that’s exactly what it looks like as well. Ah no Ted … as it so happens its name is rather misleading. Created in NZ in 2012 (clearly they like creating things in NZ … I expect that will all change when they finally get television there soon though) it is in fact a cross between Asian (nashi) and European (parentage unspecified) pears.

This would explain how they can vary in shape from the familiar pear shape to the rounder apple like shape of the nashi pear. And so to the Ted taste test ... Well ... it has the texture of a nashi pear only softer, and the juiciness of an ordinary pear, and a taste that hovers between the two in a weird way, without the best bits of either IMHO. The skin, well don’t eat it as it’s not nice and the astringency all seems to have collected there. The skin also has a funny look and feel that I imagine must create an identity crisis in adolescent Papples who would no doubt worry that they could be a pink and yellow thin skinned English avocado in disguise … 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

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